The great house is approached through parkland appropriately grazed by Longhorn cattle - no anachronistic efficient modern breeds here - and suitably furnished with great trees.
A family of millefleur Barbu d'Uccles occupied the front lawn, and a bridal car drew up for photographs as we arrived. Mrs Dormer-Cottrell enquired if we had tickets, and we followed an arrow to the gardens. Very soon we were enjoying a delightful old world herbaceous border and vegetable garden, with a rose garden adjacent to a venerable dovecot in which the original mechanism allowed a ladder (technically a 'potence') to swing round inside for the collection of squabs from their boulins - the original pigeonholes.
the herbaceous border
rose garden and dovecote
Lovely though these are, the principal feature of the Rousham garden is the landscape developed first by Charles Bridgeman (d. 1738) and modified by William Kent between 1737-41 into what became his greatest work, and is now the most complete survival of his informal landscape style. It was here that 'He leaped the fence, and saw that all nature was a garden', according to Walpole.
'Lion attacking a horse'
One of the first of of Kent's features visible as one enters the garden, is a large formal lawn in front of the house, sloping toward an imposing sculpture. Incidentally this lawn, beautifully mown, was a patchwork of wildflowers (White and Red Clover, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Selfheal) amidst the mowing stripes. The sculpture - a rather ferocious image of a lion pouncing on a writhing horse by Peter Scheemakers (1691-1781) - is set on the edge of a bluff , with a view out over the Cherwell valley to an 'eyecatcher' folly, bringing the formal garden and wider countryside into intimate association. This is the theme of the landscape - formality linked to the wild, enhanced by the carefully thought-out walks leading from one architectural or sculptural feature and its vista to another.
The River Cherwell - an integral part of the Rousham landscape